We urge all delegates at Labour Party conference to vote AGAINST the proposal coming from the NEC meeting of September 17 (this will probably be debated on Sunday). As we go to press, we have not seen the full text, but we understand that it will allow sub-panels of the NEC to swiftly expel members for any ‘hate crime’-type offence. This will presumably include transphobia, sexism, racism etc.
But we all know what the real purpose is: It is meant to be the magic bullet that finally puts an end to the anti-Semitism smear campaign in the party. But we have bad news for Labour HQ: This is not going to work! For starters, the Jewish Labour Movement has already complained – that is after all why they relaunched in 2015: to sabotage Jeremy Corbyn at every opportunity they get.
But, more seriously, this rule change has the potential to make the witch-hunt in the Labour Party even worse. Currently, the national constitutional committee (NCC) is the only body with the power to expel members, “having been created following a high court injunction against expulsions by the NEC in the 1980s”, as The Guardian puts it. “The court ruled that the NEC could not both investigate complaints and make a final ruling on complaints. However, as investigations are now carried out by party staff, the power to expel can be restored to the NEC.”
Certainly, the NCC quite rightly deserves its nickname of ‘national kangaroo court’ – most of its 24 members have been appointed by rightwing unions and affiliates and only 11 are elected by Labour Party members. But handing the power to expel members to the NEC – under current conditions – is no good thing. Contrary to what often appears in the media, the NEC is not dominated by the ‘left’.
The NEC already has the power to immediately suspend a member (and it has made full use of it). Plus, if the allegation is so serious as to warrant instant dismissal for racism, then surely this might be a police matter?
Then there is the question of what constitutes anti-Semitic “hate speech” and what is justified criticism of the actions of the state of Israel? This is, as supporters of this rule change know all too well, a hotly disputed issue. Chris Williamson MP remains suspended under anti-Semitism charges, when clearly all he did was to question the party’s response to the campaign orchestrated by the right in and outside the party.
Or take the evolution of the term ‘Zionism’. This is a label chosen by the Zionists themselves to describe their political ideology. Yet we have seen dozens of examples of Labour Party members being investigated simply for their use of the word – often merely in a descriptive fashion.
Rather than putting an end to the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ smear campaign in the party, this rule change would be making matters much, much worse – and is a real danger to the right of freedom of speech.
Please VOTE FOR the rule changes by Ceredigion CLP and Enfield Southgate CLP which would make the disciplinary process more transparent, enshrine the right to appeal and ensure that cases are dealt with in a timely fashion.